Traveling, Failing and Learning

Food is more than fuel. It tells us a story of culture and it helps us share experiences.
By: Paul Buono

I’m currently on Day 17 out of 19 on an extended holiday vacation to France to spend time with family. They say that you cannot learn anything new when things are comfortable. Well, in that case, boy o’ boy am I learning some new things during these past couple weeks.

First, let me paint the picture. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to spend the past 19 days in visiting a different country, seeing beautiful sights and experiencing a new culture. We have spent 2-4 days at a time in cities such as Paris, Bordeaux, Lorient, and Quimper. We’ve stayed with Gaby’s family most of the time we are here, so we don’t really have our own space or time to cook our own food and there have been a lot of meals out with family and friends.

I come from the background where no matter what, you could have done better. You could have tried a little bit harder, planned a little bit better and just overall outsmarted the situation with more style and finesse. Well, I’m here to tell you that, that thought process can be just as damaging as we perceive it to be helpful. 

At the end of the day, when you’ve tried your best and worked hard to make the best choices you could. Sometimes it’s not a matter of what you could have done better, it’s a matter of how well you can let go and move on.
Last week, Cherie wrote a blog about letting go of some of the material things that you have around you, causing clutter in our lives. Well, that same concept can be applied to ourselves, emotions and feelings. It’s not always about being one percent better, smarter or stronger. It can simply be about understanding that you put your best foot forward and accepting that.
I came into the trip with three goals in mind for my eating, here they are:
  1. Have a serving (two fists) of vegetables at every meal.
  2. After every drink of alcohol, have 12-16 ounces of water immediately.
  3. After every “indulgent” meal, go for a 10-15 minute walk.

Coming into the trip, I thought to myself “this is perfect”. I’m only adding “good stuff” into my nutrition, I’m keeping it simple and my goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. I was going to get off the plane and I was going to go right to the grocery store and buy peppers, cucumbers and baby carrots to pack for my “tourist” days to get extra servings of vegetables. I brought my Nalgene to fill up non-stop with water and with all the site seeing there was a ton of walking. How could this go wrong?

Well, it can. Especially when you are traveling in a foreign country with no real idea of the rules, customs, and rituals. In France and most other foreign countries, everything closes from pretty much the 24-26th and then again on the 31-1st. The grocery store hours are much different from those in the United States. Everything opens up around 10a and closes around 7p at night. If you are looking to have a meal out, it has to happen between 12-1:30p and 7:30-10:30p or else everything is closed. With Gaby and I traveling, seeing sites, training in gyms, limited Wi-Fi access and just being all over the place, we would simply “just miss” the grocery store or the restaurant and when you miss both, well you are “S.O.L”, my friends.

How do you manage this? First, it’s important to understand your priorities during a period of travel. Are you there for work? Vacation? New experience? Weigh this in line with your nutrition goals and habits. It’s okay (and healthy) to make something besides your fitness and nutrition a bigger priority temporarily in order for you to gain a new experience that doesn’t routinely occur.

Second, when your plans don’t go the way you want and all the planning in the world wouldn’t help you. What can you do? The only thing you can do to allow yourself to move forward is to simply “let go”. I don’t mean grab the closest chocolate bar, cry and feel bad for yourself. Simply, do your best with what’s in front of you and move onto the next meal or day, guilt-free. Detaching yourself from guilt will allow you to put your best foot forward the next day.

Most often, a couple non-compliant unplanned meals will not derail you from your goals. As long as you are living above 80% compliance for the time you are away, you will most likely maintain exactly where you were going into the travel. Which, is exactly the only expectation you can have during your travel and times abroad. So, in essence, if you are looking to travel or spend extended time with loved ones and you’re worried about derailing your goals, don’t be. Simply making conscious decisions and doing your best will be good enough.

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